Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press Conservative Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition, Pierre Poilievre , on September 27
The leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), Pierre Poilievre, sees proof of a social media censorship plan in a regulation that requires certain platforms to register with the federal government, as long as they declare income in the eight figures.
“Justin Trudeau was warned that the online censorship law would censor what people can see and say online. The Liberals denied it. Now this is exactly what they are doing,” the leader of the official opposition wrote in English on X on Monday morning.
Mr. Poilievre also broadcast the comments of several members of his caucus shocked by the publication, Friday, of a regulation from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) which requires that large platforms register with it.
Any “streaming service” that rakes in $10 million in revenue in Canada per year or more is affected, including social media. They have until November 28 to report to the regulatory authority and provide certain information about their activities. This is a first requirement under the Act respecting continuous online broadcasting (C-11).
Social networks included
Audiobook or video game services do not have to register, but any other platform “that distributes audio or audiovisual content intended to inform, enlighten or entertain” does. This includes, but is not limited to, social media, online subscription television services, podcasting services and, in general, any site that allows you to stream or download content.
“[The ex -Minister of Canadian Heritage] Didn't Pablo Rodriguez say that he was not going to regulate social media, that C-11 was only going to attack American web giants? » responded Conservative culture spokesperson Rachael Thomas.
“The government is now forming a registry of podcasts,” added her Ontario colleague Melissa Lantsman.
An online petition on the Conservative Party website also postulates that “the Trudeau Liberals are desperate to police and to control speech”, and that the latter “have now given themselves the power to control what Canadians can see and say online.”
No conservative elected official from Quebec had commented the news of the obligation to register platforms, first reported by the daily National PostFriday, as this was written. None of them was available to answer questions from Devoir on Monday.
Disconnected from reality
The regulations on the registration of platforms are, on the contrary, nothing surprising or unusual, according to Pierre Trudel, professor of communications law at the University of Montreal and contributor to Devoir. He calls the CRTC's appeal “a mere formality.”
“I think we're really in a complete disconnect with reality,” he says of fears about freedom of expression. According to Pierre Trudel, it is very clear that federal law is not intended to control what Internet users see or publish on social media.
“As a professor, if a student writes me that [Pierre Poilievre's analysis of the recent CRTC regulation], I put a big zero. You really don't have to know how to read to say something as pathetic as that. »
The Liberal government obtained the support of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party in its project to reform the Broadcasting Act, with the aim of dictating certain rules to online broadcasters, such as paying Canadian content and promote it.
The bill was primarily intended to apply to platforms like Netflix or Disney+, but sparked controversy by including certain social media, like YouTube.
The law only targets films, television series and music, and not YouTubers and other amateur videographers, says the Liberal government. This clarification must, however, be added by regulation, following a laborious and complex consultation process which will last until the end of 2024.
In the meantime, the CRTC wishes to collect information on the large platforms which could be the subject of regulation, hence the call for registration launched on Friday. This data should allow it to better understand the ecosystem before drafting regulations concerning them.
The request for registration of platforms is “the normal course of things” and is “not surprising,” according to Bloc MP Martin Champoux, also vice-president of the parliamentary heritage committee.
“The conservatives, at each stage of this legislation, have tried to divert [ the issue] in question of censorship. “It's irresponsible, and above all disconnected from the reality of Quebec [where] the reform of the Broadcasting Act is unanimously supported,” he believes.
It's now Minister Pascale St-Onge who must lead this reform, given that she inherited this portfolio following an imposing reshuffle of the Trudeau cabinet this summer. Her office notes that it is textually specified in the CRTC's announcement that users who upload content to social media are not affected by the law.